The Paradoxical Teacher’s Life

Paradox – [paruh-doks] noun 1. a statement or proposition that seems self contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. 2. a self-contradictory and false proposition.

I can resist anything but temptation.

Deep down, you’re really shallow.

The first shall come last.

From death shall come life.

Dieting causes me to gain weight.

I have always been fascinated with paradoxes. How can one thing negate the other, yet both are true? When I was younger, everything was black and white, and I had all of the answers. Now that I’m older, I realize that most of life cannot be summed up in one easy answer, thus the appeal of paradoxes. My life as an educator is full of personal truths that seems to contradict but in reality don’t.

Paradox 1: I love your kids, and your kids drive me crazy.

Your students breathe life into me. I love that they get angry when George kills Lennie. I love that our student body just elected a special needs boy and girl as homecoming king and queen. I love that the students in my 2nd block insisted on carrying the five foot stuffed pony (don’t ask) outside during the fire drill because it would be inhumane to let it burn. BUT your students also drive me crazy. Why can they not just give sonnets a chance? Why do they laugh every time someone reads the word “queer” (essentially, every Robert Frost poem)? Why, why, why are they sick during my exam in first block but magically better by second block? I can’t image a daily life without students, but some days . . . .

Paradox 2: I want parent support, but I need parents to back off.

Parents, I need you to help me educate your kids. Education is not something that just happens between 8:30 – 3:30 during the week of the school year. Parents set the tone at home of how important education is and how much teachers should be valued. I cannot stress how important the parent’s role is in the education process. However, I also need you to trust me to do my job and trust your student to do his or her part. I am amazed at how many emails I get from parents of 17 and 18 year olds asking for extensions on assignments or making excuses for them. If your child is old enough to drive a car, dress independently, or eat alone, he or she is old enough to speak directly with me about an issue. Education is not only content specific but also is about the child becoming more independent. Help me do my job and let your child grow up.

I believe in the system, and I think the system is flawed.

I love the fact that if you are an American, you have the opportunity to a free education. Students have choices in what they want to do with their lives and access to a system to achieve their dreams. However, the system has become flawed in the last few decades. Education has become a billion dollar industry often driven by people who have never set foot in a classroom. Testing and teacher accountability, while necessary, have become more important than student learning. Rant and rave at the county level all you want, but they have no power to change the system. Education reform is desperately needed. Exercise your right to vote and let’s return education in this country to what it should be.

I will go the extra mile for your kid, but I will protect my family time.

I often come in early, and I often stay late. I grade papers at home so I can have them back to your student promptly (and so I don’t have to clean house). Basically, I will do whatever I can to help your child succeed academically. But I do have a family, and my job, which I dearly love, is not my life. I will not have conferences in the grocery store, Mexican restaurant, or at church. I will not answer your email that was sent at 8:30 p.m. until the next school day; emailing an additional five times will only bring out my passive aggressive nature thus delaying a return email even longer. Be thankful that I love my family and have a life outside of school because this makes me a better teacher.

All of us, teachers or not, live messy lives that at times seem to be full of contradiction. Instead of fighting this, embrace your paradoxical life and live it well.

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